Monday, 17 December 2012

Reminiscence & Hope: Once Upon a Time in Nigeria --by Oludare Pius

Photo Credit: Olumoraks

Do you still remember the time when the only TV station was NTA, and the options you had were NTA channel 10, NTA 2 (channel 5) and NTA channel 7. That was the time when Frank Oliseh of “newsline” was more popular than today’s Frank Edoho of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” By the way, who doesn’t want to become a millionaire? That was when Birdman and G-force looked like today’s Avatar; the animation really looked crispate. You would have a lot of friends coming to your house simply because you had cable TV. Or perhaps, because you were the kind of classy bachelor that had a VHS player and some Indian films at home.

Once upon a time Paratroopers was the reigning game and Pacman tried to rival it before Mortal Kombat finally took over. Then, a computer genius was someone who could power on a system, do a few things on word processor, enter basic commands and tell you the history of the computer (genius in fact).

Indeed if I reminisce where we are coming from as a country; when streetlights were an endangered species; when the price of a litre of oil would not buy you the smallest unit of groundnut in today’s currency; when a football derby between Nigeria and Ghana would pull more viewers than a La Liga El Clasico match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. You will agree with me that many waters have passed under the bridge. Come to think of it, I am still scratching history on its surface; I have not mentioned our parents’ lamentation of the magic one Naira existent in their own time.

I remember the time when owning a NITEL telephone line made you a big person. Phone lines were so expensive, the then Communications Minister actually said it wasn’t meant for the poor. You would literally have people booking appointments to take calls at your place. Later, NITEL would visit you with their crazy bills as though to test your patience. But thanks to technology and business competition; today, phone lines are so cheap that you could get a basic GSM phone and SIM card at a price that is cheaper than the cost of a scientific calculator. Kudos to God for creating the Chinese!

Once upon a time SIM cards were more expensive than some of today’s hi-tech phones. Nokia 3310 (a.k.a. pure water) once cost 40,000 Naira. Then, you had to use your airtime wisely and ensure that your call does not enter the next minute. A certain operator even said a per-seconds billing was not possible. Today, all that is history courtesy of industry competition and NCC reforms.

Do you remember freedom? I still recall the time when “mum” was the best word to use if you were talking politics and a uniformed man popped into your corner. That was when “fellow Nigerians” was the appropriate and official way of greeting Nigerians. That was a time when those uniformed guys decreed a lot of capricious edicts and they were established on all. Today, our democracy may not be great; but hey, you could stand in front of Asokoro Villa and call the president a bad boy (please, not my recommendation).

Talking innovation, do you still remember the time when satellite TV entered the Nigerian market? The dishes of their outdoor units were so large, you would mistake them for new architectural roofing. The vast majority that could not afford satellite or cable TV had their TV antennas suspended so high in the sky that they rivalled the height of the tower of Babel. The logic was the higher your VHF/UHF antenna, the more the TV signals it would receive. This made some neighbours extend theirs so high, you would think they were indeed searching for some heavenly TV station. Now, satellite TV is relatively affordable with various competitive prices. Again, the dish sizes have so reduced that no fearless Spartan would want to use it as a shield on the battlefield.

While history or changed times may make us smile, one thing remains secure: Nigerians are able to quickly adapt to any system. Perhaps, we so much get used to systems that we forget the past and fail to appreciate our future. But I hope to see an all-round changed Nigeria. A Nigeria where huge developments would have their way and the impossible issues of today would be another chapter of history.

I hope to see a Nigeria where underground pipes would carry more water than air, where power utility companies would distribute electric power nonstop. I hope to see a time in Lagos city when the plenteous transport conductors called Agbero would look respectable in befitting locally-made suits and the mighty buses called Molue would transit the metropolis with factory-fitted air conditioners and plasma TVs. I hope to see a period when all Matatus or Danfos would be four-wheel drives –they would all have standard bus stations and offer an online booking system. It is really possible; don’t think of it as wishful thinking. I mean I could just sit down in my office and check when the next Molue would arrive at the bus station.

 I hope to see a Lagos where I would wake up late by 7.00 am and have the assurance of making it to the office before 8.00 am, irrespective of my location courtesy of a well-structured railway system connecting the gamut of the state; a Lagos where traffic jams running into 30 minutes delay would make the breaking news of the next hour.

I hope to see a time when there would be equal opportunity for everyone, without respect to tribe, language or religion; when all industry monopolies would be broken and St Louis Sugar would no longer be the only cubed sugar product available in the Nigerian market. I mean, a time when all Nigerians would have options in all ramifications.

I hope to see a new Nigeria where, “I will construct roads, give you light and sink boreholes in your neighbourhoods” are no longer be manifesto and campaign topics because everyone would have access to the basic amenities of life.

I hope to see a Nigeria in the near future, where once upon another time, we would look back and thank God the country has made us proud because we all stood for our rights and took responsibility for our actions.

Before its revision here, this article was published as Once Upon a Time on Pius’ blog.
Oludare Olugbenga Pius is a writer and social entrepreneur. He enjoys meeting people, visiting places and learning new things. His blog address is